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Ham tacos and the toilet isn't sucking mud

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Oct 18th, 2000, 09:12 AM
  #1
elvira
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Ham tacos and the toilet isn't sucking mud

Part One of the Loons Change Maritime Law:

Via British Air, arrived Gatwick Airport early afternoon. 3 Loons took Alitalia to Venice, and said they had wonderful service and food, highly recommending the airline. I took British Air from HEATHROW, and so had to change airports. Important info: British Air will cover the cost of the SpeedLink bus BUT you must get the voucher from the British Air customer service desk first (it is across the floor from the SpeedLink desk) then turn it in at the SpeedLink desk for a 'boarding card'. The bus is comfortable, and even in near-rush hour traffic, took about 1 1/2 hours. It rained a bit, then the sun came out...and the good omen appeared. Over Heathrow, a DOUBLE rainbow, full arcs end to end over the airport...and PURPLE bands. Have never seen either of those phenomena, and I knew the trip would be aces from then on.

I arrived at Marco Polo airport (nice teeny little airport; never worry about meeting people there - you can see the whole airport from any spot) about 30 mins before the other Loons, so had a chance to pick up some brochures on the buses, etc. As we arrived at midnight, the water buses had stopped running (they stop around 12:05) so we had to take a water taxi. It was about $60 I think, but split 4 ways, not budget-breaking. It was a truly memorable experience...the boat went very VERY fast across to Venice, then putt-putted into a tiny canal near the hotel; it was appropriate that our arrival was over water. Driver got all our bags onto the dock (mind you, it's now almost 1am), and though he spoke no English, gave us directions to the hotel (I have enough pidgin Italian to get simple directions...and order food). No sounds... so quiet...through narrow alleys that must have been trod by 15th century Venetians, who also heard nothing...so strange to not hear the hum of traffic. The directions were perfect, we turned the last corner and saw the lit front of the Albergo Santa Lucia at Calle Misericordia, 358. I had let them know we would be arriving late, and they kept the front lobby and the sign lit up to welcome us. The lovely man at the front desk spoke no English, but again, pidgin Italian, I figured out my sister had called and left a message for me to call her (she wasn't joining us this time, but her daughter was). He took us to a HUGE room that looked onto the terrace - chandelier over the center of the room - full bathroom - all for about $30 a person (including breakfast). It turns out, after calling Ah Gheez, that her daughter, Neeeece, had left her ATM cards on the kitchen table, and basically had NO money with her. She was to arrive the next day with OldHand's cousin, Photog, from Florida, around noon at Marco Polo...we all assured Ah Gheez we'd front Neeeece the money, so Mom sighed in relief. Beds weren't the most comfortable, but they were ok...the mosquitoes kept us awake. Suggest that during skeeter season, you bring bug spray (we had repellant, but they still buzzed our ears all night). We recommend the hotel for good value for the money (it is about 5 minutes from the train station).
More to follow...

 
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Oct 18th, 2000, 09:17 AM
  #2
pam
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Yippee! She's baaacckk! Elvira, you were missed, lady. I hope you had a fantastic time and can't wait to read the next installment.
 
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Oct 18th, 2000, 09:22 AM
  #3
Lori
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Anticipating..............
 
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Oct 18th, 2000, 09:22 AM
  #4
SharonM
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...I'm still waiting to hear about the ham tacos and non-mud-sucking toilets!!! You tease!
 
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Oct 18th, 2000, 10:26 AM
  #5
elvira
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Next day, I left the Loons to go back to the airport to meet the East Coast Loons arriving about noon. There's a waterbus stop in front of the train station, but had to change at San Marco for the airport bus. I missed the boat (so to speak), so I was about an hour late to the airport. As predicted by the rainbows, all was well - both flights were delayed an hour, so I was on time. Rusty arrived first from Munich; 15 mins later, Neeeece and Photog arrived from Florida. And Photog had left HER ATM cards at home, too! We determined it was caused by something in the Florida water. Meanwhile, back at the albergo, the other Loons were heading for the boat we rented, where I and the East Coast Loons would meet them. Dimbulb here gave ALL the boat info to Old Hand...and had no directions, phone #s, zippo with me to find the boat place! So I go to the water taxi booth and ask if they can take us to the boat place (praying that I can 'feel' where it is) in Chioggia. He says 'it will be very VERY expensive; better to take the regular taxi' (there are water buses to Chioggia, but we would have had to take a water bus to Venice, then change to the Chioggia water bus - with a long wait in between). We got ourselves a taxi, and off we went to find the boat. Well, Chioggia is a lot bigger than it looks on the map, and we drove around and around looking for the boat place. Finally, we had the driver just leave us in a little square near what looked like a likely place for the boat place to be, so we left the Florida Loons to watch the bags, and Rusty and I started wandering. About a half hour later, we're walking across a BIG bridge, and see a sign "houseboat rentals"...and a bunch of little houseboats all moored up along the bridge. EUREKA we shout...until we see the boat. It's the f**king Queen f**king Mary...and none of us know the first thing about boats. We clamber on board, where Marcello is patiently explaining to one of the newest Loons, now dubbed El Capitane, all the navigational terms, rules, etc. for us to take out the boat...oh criminey, what have we gotten ourselves into. Bricola, channels, fore, aft...we're doomed. He takes us out for a spin, and I guess we did ok, because he gives us the keys. It's now about 5:30, so we walk into Chioggia...what a hidden gem. It's a mini-Venice WITHOUT the tourists. The only language we heard was Italian; happened upon a wedding party walking to the hotel for the reception, the sort of photo op you hope will happen. As restaurants don't open until 7:00 or later, we found a little cafe that sold all sorts of sandwiches and pizzas and calzones, so we each got something different then took bites....sandwiches were like a dollar apiece! Then a stroll through town - old churches and statues, beautiful shops, and gelati! Found a little supermarket and bought some wine, then back to the boat. We decided to stay moored at the bridge for the evening, and set off the next day for Venice. So there we are on the back of the boat, in patio chairs, drinking wine and enjoying the night air. Across the road is a large parking lot, with the tented fish market (now closed, of course, because it's 11pm), and totally dark. Suddenly, this large metal container flies open, lights go on...and cars and scooters and Vespas and bicycles start flooding into the parking lot, their owners going up to the open metal container, walking away with plastic bags. Nefarious activity, we think...until the smells start wafting over to us. Two of the Loons dodge traffic to investigate...and come back with...ham tacos. Flat bread, sort of like pizza crust, folded in half and filled with grilled onions and ham...ohmigod, heavenly. No wonder the jernt was jumpin'! And traffic all night long - these Chioggians apparently never sleep. Got a good night's sleep, ready to tackle (is that what you do to the ocean?) cruising to Venice in the morning.

More to come...
 
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Oct 18th, 2000, 10:37 AM
  #6
elaine
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elvira
I love the fact that you, the champion planner and organizer of all time, have a niece that forgets atm cards. Guess those a/r genes skip generations.
Chioggia is a new topic for me, but you've gotten me very interested. How/from where does a person get there by public water bus from Venice (not the airport), does anyone know? Is it an easy daytrip from Venice proper, or more of a voyage? (There's no information on it at all in my general Italy guidebook.)
 
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Oct 18th, 2000, 11:05 AM
  #7
cherie
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Being an avid Casanova-ist, I am waiting for the next installment......
 
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Oct 18th, 2000, 11:13 AM
  #8
elvira
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Oh lordy we are now in trouble; we must cast off from our mooring, and head for Vignole, a little island just south of Venice where we can moor the boat, then take the water bus into Venice. El Capitane is at the helm, and six Loons are scrambling over the boat, casting off, pushing with boat hooks, hollering and yelling...and we're off, cruising at a mind-blowing 24 knots (I believe that's the speed of pregnant women pushing wheelbarrows uphill) keeping the bricola to our right, and land to our left. Find the eensy weensy canal at Vignole where we can moor...and there's another boat there. Uh oh, we have to get good real fast...and we do. Pulled up in front, backed that tug against the dock, tied her off...and got a round of applause from the guys on the other boat. We catch the water bus to Venice, to see some of the Regatta...and we create a stir.

We are sitting on the canal (as in, on the cement wall, hanging our feet over the Grand Canal) just west of San Marco, watching the tail-end of the Regatta, when Photog leans over to see something in the water...and drops her $200 sunglasses into the water. She can see them, so she goes over to the water taxi guy and explains what happened. He gives her a long-handled broom, so she starts trying to fish them out. TaxiGuy and a couple more are leaning over and watching. TaxiGuy then finds a long metal pole with a curved end, and HE tries that. Quite a few folks have now gathered around to watch what's going on. Among the men, lots of discussion about what happened, the logistics of what to do, etc. (men are the same everywhere). One man breaks away, and comes back in a few minutes with a FISHING NET, and he now takes over...for 15 minutes he scoops up algae, tosses it out, drags the net, scoops up algae, tosses it out...by this time, I'm figuring those sunglasses are halfway to Algeria... when...allelujah!! They are snagged by the net! And the peasants rejoice. There's applause, whoopin'n'hollerin', and high-fives... and the guy just walks away. Photog realizes he's left, and chases him down, offering him a 'reward', which he refuses. She does give him a big hug, and thanks him profusely. The crowd now disperses...and we find our rescuer at his SOUVENIR STAND...he had LEFT it to help us! Needless to say, we made sure we did a goodly amount of shopping right there. I am mentioning all of this, not only because it was highly entertaining, but to counteract recent criticisms of the Venetians as money-grubbing cheaters of tourists. Not once did we experience that, and we did all the things that tourists do. As a whole, we found them gracious, generous, helpful, kind and genuinely pleasant to be around (didn't hurt that the men were among some of the handsomest I've ever seen). We found the prices to be fair and reasonable (yes, at Harry's Bar the drinks are expensive, but why would that be a surprise?) and we got what was represented. Not once did we feel were cheated, or looked upon as suckers. Our time in Venice was some of the most pleasant I've ever spent, and we've vowed to return for a longer stay.

A couple more highlights to follow.
 
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Oct 18th, 2000, 11:24 AM
  #9
nancy
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Elvira,
On this very wet, very raw, New England afternoon, it was such a treat to viualize your travels in my mind.
Welcome back.
look forward to more.
nancy
 
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Oct 18th, 2000, 12:03 PM
  #10
June
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I'm new! Elvira is so funny that I will search for her other postings, but in the meantime, who or what are the loons? Is she traveling with a group of women friends, family, or what? I need a little history here.
 
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Oct 18th, 2000, 12:24 PM
  #11
pam
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June, I'll let Elvira explain the Loons to you. Search for her post, "Take your geese with you when you leave." I'll see if I can find it for you; also a recent post by Sheila Ritchie re: Elvira's tour of English Parliament building. Guaranteed rolling-on-the-floor, tears-in-your-eyes laughing.
 
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Oct 18th, 2000, 12:25 PM
  #12
elvira
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Marcello told us there was PLENTY of docking space at Murano, as long as we arrived before 10am, when it got busy. So we get there about 9:30, and cruise into the canal noted as "public docking"...both sides are lined with boats, the canal is EXACTLY as wide as the boat is long. We can't keep heading straight, because there's a low bridge dead ahead. Finally, we see a space and El Capitane goes for it...and the Loons make maritime history...we're trying to fit the Queen Mary between several little dories, a couple of teak sailboats, and a cabin cruiser or two. To top it all off, there are NO mooring posts, just rings in the wall of the canal. Photog's got her back against the cabin and her foot against a dory, trying to keep the aft from crushing the dory, Neeeece is trying to jump onto the wharf so she can be tossed a rope to tie us off on a ring...general mayhem is ensuing. Out from the restaurant that's located right on the canal comes a gorgeous man (olive skin, blue eyes, will you come home with me?) who gestures for us to throw him a line ("what's a Grecian urn?"), and he ties us off. Sorts out that where we've moored is the restaurant's dock, and HE owns the restaurant. Well, we troop right in there and order up a tableful of sandwiches and Cokes and coffee and desserts. Then off we go to spend every lira we have...and we were pretty successful. NOW we have to cast off and head for the Brenta Canal...more mayhem, but we get out without damaging anything other than Old Hand, who, when trying to get on board, slipped and ended up dangling from the side of the boat next to the dock (other than a couple of bruises on her knees, she's fine - scared the beegeezus out of all of us, though).

We must travel the length of the Giudecca Canal to get to the Brenta...and this is the canal that is the main travel route for warships, battleships, and cruiseships...I have not pointed this out to El Capitane, as she will cut and run. The rainbow omen holds true, and the canal is...vacant. Other than other pleasure craft, and the waterbuses and taxis, not a tanker or ocean liner in sight. We cruise right down the middle, San Marco on our right, San Giorgio Maggiore on our left...and out into the open sea. Not as scary as it sounds; the channels are well marked with bricola, the weather was spectacular (we had rain ONLY when we were docked at night) and no one got seasick at all. The locks were a challenge, but were manageable; there was always someone to help, and, in our case, DOZENS of men showed up to help; I think they were just amazed at a boatload of women...it wasn't at all condescending, more like awe. We even had several women come out to watch us, and give us the thumbs up when we got through the locks. One giant leap for womankind (or, in the case of Old Hand, one giant slip off the boat)...

One more installment ought to do it...
 
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Oct 18th, 2000, 12:32 PM
  #13
kk
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GOOD GRIEF, I say. The only reason I clicked on othis was because this bizarrely titled thread wasn't going away so I figured I might as well see what it's about. And there it was, Elvira's trip report.
I've not yet read it but have printed it out for that purpose and intend to enjoy at leisure. Ever read the novel, Loon Lake, Elvira?
 
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Oct 18th, 2000, 12:43 PM
  #14
Patrick
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Well, Elvira, you've really done it now! Here I was thinking we had the most exciting and wonderful three days anyone could have in Venice this summer, when you come along and spoil it all. God, what we did was as boring as watching algae grow compared to your adventures. Great to have you back!
 
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Oct 18th, 2000, 12:53 PM
  #15
Diane
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Elvira: What a delight to read your postings! This saga of female boatsters should be enough to encourage women everywhere to "go for it," no matter what the challenge. Of course, you're writing about the country we all love, Bella Italia. Keep entertaining us, and Grazie. Diane.
 
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Oct 18th, 2000, 01:07 PM
  #16
kk
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And when the head loon writes (above)......"and we create a stir," that's got to be the understatement of all time.
Did you go to some Palladio houses, Elvira? Which ones please?
 
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Oct 18th, 2000, 01:54 PM
  #17
Diane
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This is why I love this forum...Bravissimo!
 
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Oct 18th, 2000, 02:48 PM
  #18
elvira
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We moor at Malcontenta (bad name for a good town, so to speak) to take advantage of the bicyles we've been lugging around...humdinger of a day, we bicycle for miles...found a beautiful cemetery for photos and quiet time... ate lunch at a restaurant that specialized in fish, and had our first experience with fish and grits. I guess it was polenta, but the Texas Loon said "nuhn uh honey this here is GRITS"...and a legend was born. I had the best seafood pasta ever...teeny TEENY clams and mussels in their shells, shrimp, minute scallops on a bed of linguini. Half of the Loons continued on, the other half went back to the boat. The girls who went back to the boat decided to walk over to the Villa Foscari, only to discover that it was closed. They started to turn away, when a woman came out and motioned them in. Seems the villa's SCHEDULED openings are few, but they open for tour groups...and a group was due in about a half an hour, so the chatelaine let the Loons in...When we got back from our bike ride, they were chattering like magpies about the villa, how beautiful, the ceilings, etc. etc. etc. Rainbow omen, remember?
That night, a terrible storm blew in, strong winds and pea-sized HAIL...but we were safely moored, and battened down the hatches (really, we actually BATTENED DOWN THE HATCHES). We stayed moored for a couple of nights, biking and taking buses to some of the other villas...which is where the mud-sucking toilet comes in.

ok it's too long a post so i'll have to divide it into two...

 
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Oct 18th, 2000, 02:49 PM
  #19
JanisB
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When I saw this title I just had a feeling it was from Elvira and had to find out - am enjoying every sentence. What fun you "Loons" had. Keep it coming, Elvira! Welcome back!
 
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Oct 18th, 2000, 02:50 PM
  #20
elvira
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FINAL Venezia installment...

As Venezia doesn't have much of an EPA, boats pump sea/canal water directly into the toilets...and the flushing goes right back out again (don't think about it or you'll retch). We'd stayed moored for a couple of nights, and suddenly one of the toilets wouldn't flush...and was filled with brown 'stew'. When it was time to cast off, Old Hand said "if we hit the open sea with that full toilet, it's going to slop all over the place" so she put on a pair of rubber gloves (which I'd bought 3 days before for no reason - the rainbow omen again?), got a bucket, and bailed out the toilet. Figuring she'd come out gagging, I was surprised when she didn't. She said it smelled like briny, fishy water and looked more like mud, not like, er, you know. Back through the lock, more cheers and accolades from the locals, and we hit the open sea to head back to Chioggia to drop off the boat. Indescribably gorgeous day...bright sun, blue sky, little traffic. We each took turns at the helm...and hated giving it up to the next Loon. I went below deck to get some water, and decided to check the offending plumbing...gave it a flush and...it flushed. Apparently, we were sucking up the canal mud while moored and it flushed out once we started cruising. Again, the natives rejoiced...happy dance on deck at the news we were no longer sucking mud.

Returned the boat with only one problem...WARNING WARNING: when we paid for the boat in July, we were given a price substantially higher in $$ than the price shown in French francs. When I asked, I was told the $$ included fuel (we're talking about an $800 difference), so I agreed to that, figuring we wouldn't have to worry about a major expense on the trip. Weeeell, we return the boat, and Marcello says he wants money for the FUEL, because he has to go fill it up for the next renters! An hour later, we're still arguing...and we ended up paying the $300 to Marcello and are STILL arguing with Crown Blue Lines over the $800 fuel deposit. Put a damper on an otherwise wonderful experience...just a heads up if you plan to lease a boat to nail down that the local rep won't be demanding fuel money if you've already paid.

I would recommend the boat experience hands down (so to speak) to just about anyone, but I WOULD recommend you start with a simple canal trip where oil tankers aren't cutting across your bow (love those nautical terms). We all felt we'd gone a little bit beyond what we thought we were capable, and succeeded. El Capitane said she was drained, but felt very strong for having captained the boat so successfully. 7 women had spent 7 days in very close quarters - and are still good friends.

Visit Chioggia - it is wonderful! - there is traffic, though, unlike Venice...and THOUSANDS of bicyclists! For the ultimate seafood restaurant, El Gato in Chioggia...the menu is daunting, but the maitre d'/owner is very VERY helpful and speaks English...suggesting things and explaining what things are what. And, we got fish and grits there, too. The girls ate baby octopus (I passed), and all sorts of strange and wonderous sea creatures. Most memorable, and very, very good. 'Spensive.

To get away from the tourists in Venice, head north from San Marco toward Fondamente Nuove and wander the streets.

Waterbuses are very efficient and a water taxi is only for absolutely necessary (like arriving at Marco Polo at midnight!). You can get from Venice Lido to Chioggia by water bus; regular busses also run between Chioggia and the Venice bus terminal.

Some of the Loons stayed on in Venice for two more days; I took the train through Switzerland to Paris...and that's another story...



 
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